Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses at your salvation service!
OK, that's not exactly how it went, but that's kind of what has gone down for me this summer on any given Saturday morning. Two nicely dressed, middle-aged African-American men have apparently made me their "project", and they come 'round on Saturday mornings when my partner is at Temple, and talk to me about The Watchtower magazine, and whether I believe .
One of them is, in fact, named King. King does all the talking. The other man just stands on the steps, holding materials as King attempts to engage me and reel me in.
It used to be that when the Jehovah's Witnesses showed up on my doorstep, I would be really obnoxious. As a teen-ager into the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and Nina Hagen, I could be very punkish with these well-intentioned, determined people. One time, the question of the day was, "Do I want to see a world without sickness and death?"
Witness: (Pause) You don't want a world without sickness and death?
Me: (with loud rock music blaring from the kitchen radio in the background) No, because people have to die. Otherwise we'd have overpopulation and starvation. Death is natural. More people should die.
My deadpan brooding look, my long straight hair, New Wave t-shirt, background sound and seriousness of my "Death is natural" was all the woman could take and she left...without giving me the magazine.
So now, almost 30 years later, the Jehovah's Witnesses are baaaaacccckkkkk. And this time, they have sent me King.
The last visit I had from King and friend was interesting, at least for me. First, he handed me material that would help "strengthen my marriage" which I took and thanked him, silently chuckling to myself. Then came the question he wanted me to answer. It had to do with whether I was aware of the Kingdom.
"Yes, and I believe the Kingdom is now."
This answer surprised him...and me as well. I wasn't expecting that I would launch into an Episcopal philosophy lesson with a stranger, but there was something about being engaged in a discussion of the Kingdom of Heaven that made me take off.
"I believe eternal life is right now. It's our choice to live into that."
King looked puzzled and clutched his Bible. He wanted me to "understand" that the Kingdom was something we're trying to attain, that it is at hand. But I wouldn't budge from my position.
"It's in the Lord's Prayer. 'Thy kingdom come, thy will be done *on earth* as it is in heaven'! We shouldn't wait for it to happen. We are supposed to live into the Kingdom now."
None of this was working for King, and his friend was starting to shift uncomfortably, so the pair simply handed me their Watchtower magazine, and went on their way. And I could get back to visiting with my friend who had wondered why I would engage the Jehovah's Witnesses at all.
It's hard to say why I wanted the discussion, except that when such folks come 'round knocking on my door, and wanting to tell me how to think, I feel a need to enter a dialogue with them and meet their proselytizing head on. It's a little like when I was in college and surrounded by fundamentalist Christians on my dorm floor who felt the need to "save" me. Back then, I didn't know how to meet them at all. All I knew how to do was get angry and hostile, bordering on rude. Today, I have an answer for the "Are you saved?" question.
"Yes, of course, and so were you 2,000 something years ago!"
Huh? You see, "saved" for me happened when God, as Jesus, went to the cross for us, and gave up his life as a human being, shedding his blood....so that all would be forgiven for all. We don't have to do anything to earn this redemption. There are no frequent prayer credits, no heavenly upgrades. All that's necessary is for us to say, "Yeah! OK!!" and believe that it's true. Because from that belief, that willingness to center on God, you'll find-as I did--you'll understand what it means to be saved, and the incredible...indescribable ...love that is God will blow you away!
Post-script on King: I don't know if he'll come back again. The last time he visited, my Jewish partner was home and I wasn't. She promised that she wasn't mean to him, but she told him point blank that she wasn't buying what he was selling. I guess it doesn't hurt to be blunt sometimes.